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Aww Shucks

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SELECTING, SCRUBBING, AND OPENING YOUR OYSTER

It’s almost as if an oyster doesn’t want to be eaten. What hubris! With its delectable flavor, easy-going texture, and slurp-worthy juice, the oyster should look at human craving as a sign of merit and honor. For some reason, they don’t think that way, so we have to put in a little effort before we get to the good stuff.

Select Your Oyster

The law has got your back! It mandates that raw oysters must be sold live, so the first step is taken care of for you. It’s good to check, though: Dead oysters will have loose shells, while live ones will be tightly shut or will shut when tapped. They should feel heavy and full of water. Pick oysters that have been stored large-side down in an open container or a mesh sack.

Scrub Your Oyster

Again, most of the work has been done for you: These days, commercially available oysters are fairly clean. But if you need to do some touchups, scrub them under cold running water. A toothbrush will serve you well. While you’re at it, use your fingers to pull off the stringy part known as “the beard.” It’s not for eating.

Open Your Oyster

Photos by Jason Wallis and Hayley Phillips
Photos by Jason Wallis and Hayley Phillips

First, get a good knife. An oyster knife has a short, sharp blade and a thick, bulbous handle. Next, slide on some heavy-duty gloves in case your knife slips. Opening—or shucking—an oyster can take lots of effort and pressure, so it’s important to protect your fingers. Now partially wrap the oyster in a towel and place it on a flat surface. Find where the shells connect, or the hinge, and cut it first. Wiggle your knife back and forth, up and down until the hinge pops open. Next, slide your knife along the shell while using your thumb to pry the oyster open. Make sure you don’t spill any of the briny juice known as the liquor. It should be clear, not cloudy. Cut the muscle that holds the shells together, being careful not to pierce the oyster itself. Now lift the top shell. Your oyster is open! Slide your knife underneath the oyster and cut it away from the bottom shell. With your oyster free, take a second to look it over and make sure there are no shell fragments stuck to it. If there are, scrape them away with your knife.

Now that your oyster has been conquered, finish the job. Slurp it and swallow it, or prepare the oyster in any way you see fit. You’ve done the work, so enjoy the spoils. Think of it as an honor for both you and the stubborn little bivalve to share.